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As green concerns become more widespread and pressing, many artists are looking for eco-friendly versions of their favorite supplies. The pigmented cores of colored pencils are usually found inside cylindrical wooden cases, an increasingly valuable resource. One way to find a more eco-friendly coloring utensil is to consider whether its wood comes from sustainably managed forests.
Colored pencil cores contain pigment and a binder, usually wax, which holds the pigment together and allows it to adhere to surfaces; there may also be other additives like chalk fillers and vegetable gums. Various wax-based artistic mediums have existed since classical antiquity, and wax crayons have been used since the 1500s. Wax crayons did not gain popularity until the early 20th century when they were primarily used not in the arts, but for activities such as “checking and marking,” according to the Western Association for Art Conservation. The manufacture of brighter colored pencils for creative pursuits accelerated in the 1920s and 1930s, led by graphite pencil manufacturer Faber-Castell and other companies such as Caran d’Ache and Berol Prismacolor.
Some colored pencils use oil-based binders rather than wax, and some come in watercolor and woodless “stick” varieties. Below are introductions to five of the most eco-friendly colored pencils, with a focus on whether they’re sustainably sourced or completely wood-free.
Caran d’Ache Pablo colored pencils
Caran d’Ache’s Pablo line is one of many colored pencil sets certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an international non-profit organization that supports responsible forest management. Caran d’Ache is a Swiss manufacturer of art and writing materials, including these pigmented pencils, which are sold individually or in sets of up to 120 colours. In addition to FSC certification, the company relies heavily on solar energy and reuses wood offcuts from its pencil production to power its heating system.
Faber-Castell colored pencils
Faber-Castell, a leading global producer of colored and graphite writing and art utensils, was one of the first manufacturers of artist-grade colored pencils. More than 90% of its pencil wood comes from FSC-certified forests, and it also conducts replanting and forest preservation programs. Faber-Castell Classic colored pencils are available in sets of 36 or 48, and the company also offers sets containing up to 120 colors.
Koh-I-Noor Progresso Woodless Colored Pencils
Color pencil sticks without wood casing require no trees to be felled. Koh-I-Noor Progresso colored pencils have a lacquer coating instead of wood and contain five times more base material than typical colored pencils, according to the company. Koh-I-Noor has roots in Bohemia in the Czech Republic and an American base in Massachusetts. These woodless art tools can be purchased individually or in sets of 12 or 24.
STABILO GREENcolors color pencils
Stabilo, a German family-run producer of writing and art materials, offers 100% FSC-certified pencils in 24 unique colors, available in packs of 12, 18 and 24. Stabilo is also well known for its popular highlighters, as well as pastel pencils and other drawing and marking materials.
Sprout Pencils, Special Mix Edition, Color and Graphite Planter Pencils
The end of each Sprout colored pencil in this eight-pack contains a capsule filled with non-GMO wood flour and seeds. When these tools reach the end of their life, they can be planted, thus continuing the cycle of life. All Sprout pencil wood is certified by the FSC or the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, another international non-profit organization promoting sustainable forest management. The company also carries out various replanting projects.